Archive for Monday, August 19, 2002

Fan-favorite Funk puts on a show

Funk Fest’ leads to fourth-place tie

August 19, 2002


— Although he shot a 1-over-par 73 in the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday, Fred Funk was elated with his fourth-place tie.

"I just didn't want the day to end," said Funk, who finished at 4-under 284. He and Justin Leonard were six strokes back of winner Rich Beem.

Funk, 46, never has won a major, and he hasn't even won a tour event since 1998. But with his surprising performance, ever-present smile and animated celebrations, Funk clearly won over the fans in Minnesota this week.

A man walking out of the clubhouse after the tournament's conclusion was asked by an autograph-seeking fan if any players were left inside.

"Fred Funk is," he said.

"Yessss!" she replied.

Though he finished second in two of his three previous tournaments before the PGA, Funk didn't qualify for any of the season's first three majors. He entered the week 28th on the money list, and his biggest claim to fame was his last name, which along with fellow first-round co-leader Jim Furyk, made him sound like part of a '70s disco act.

"It might help get me a little notoriety," Funk said of his attitude. "Once they saw I'm a pretty jovial guy, and once they jumped on my name, the fans were really into me. It was kind of an all-inclusive package I had. I called it 'Funk Fest.'"

His success at Hazeltine was not only a self-esteem boost, but it's also a guarantee he won't have to wiggle his way into the PGA Championship just to play in a major next season. The top four finishers at the PGA automatically are in the next Masters.

"This has given me some confidence for the rest of the year," Funk said. "It helped me achieve a couple of my goals. I wanted to get into some of the majors. And I guess finishing fourth will get me into some of those."

What made Sunday more special for Funk was the chance to play with Tiger Woods. They formed what was easily the most popular group of the tournament.

"Freddie is a great guy, one I've come to know very well over the last few years and become one of my good friends out here," Woods said. "It was really neat to actually play the final round of a major with one of your buddies."

Even if that buddy wanted badly to mock him.

After missing a putt and the chance to show off his Woods imitation on No. 16 Saturday, Funk made a par putt on the first hole Sunday and promptly displayed his version of the rapid-fire fist pump Woods so often does after making a crucial short shot.

"I told him I was going to do it," Funk said. "It was kind of a mini-Tiger. I said, 'Hey, I got it out of the way.' And he said, 'Hey, that's great.' He was laughing."

Funk again smiled and spoke proudly of his older brother, who recently sought help for a drinking problem, crediting the peace he's derived from the situation for allowing him to loosen up.

"I don't want to make a fool out of myself," Funk said. "I just have fun really reacting. In golf today, nobody really reacts at all. I say, 'Let yourself go.' That's the biggest difference for me. Enjoy this for a moment instead of saying, 'OK, let's go to the next hole.'"

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